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The scientist in her spoke of reason. Booker and Elizabeth were here and they had work to do. And yet, there was Jack. Shaking in her arms, crying, baring his heart without a word to the only mother he would ever know.
In the far reaches of her vision, Elizabeth put her hand on Booker’s shoulder to stop him from coming closer. With a nod, Elizabeth had bought them both time for this moment.
Because of Suchong’s work, Jack was exceptionally fit with the musculature of someone in their twenties… It wasn’t easy, but Tenenbaum pulled him closer into the hug, basking in this peace between them.
As his breathing steadied, he stepped back and wiped his tears off on the back of his hand. “I…” He rasped, clearing his throat to continue. “I’m sorry, I don’t know…”
He caught sight of Booker and Elizabeth, he straightened and forced a smile. “Oh, uh. Hello. I’m glad you’re safe,” he recovered, relaxing a little.
“You too,” Booker answered, eyes locked on Tenenbaum. She only chuckled. Would Booker ever learn that every woman in the world had dealt with a strong, angry man. He was readily dismissed. Taking out a cigarette, Tenenbaum lit it and looked past him to Elizabeth.
“And what did you find?”
Elizabeth glanced to Booker, who kept his distance. “Cohen is definitely involved in smuggling, and it seems he’s taking Fontaine’s place for Ryan.”
Jack looked away, adjusting the neck of his sweater. As Elizabeth continued, he wandered to lean against the wall beside Booker.
“But his mental state is falling apart, fast.” She twisted her fingers around the metal stub of her pinky, her ponytail swaying with her gestures as she explained. “Whatever information he has, he’s not sane enough to relay it. It’s not worth the risk.”
Tenenbaum exhaled a cloud of smoke. “Then we need our next steps. Fontaine has already made his.”
“What? He has?” Jack came back towards them from a slightly calmer Booker. At least someone could calm that beast. “How, what–”
“Easy, Jack,” she said. “There are posters. Rallies. A man, Atlas, is speaking against Ryan and gaining followers.”
“Oh,” Jack answered.
“And Ryan has started gathering the followers of Fontaine’s who can’t offer him anything, locking them away.” She took another drag from her cigarette and for a moment, Jack was present in body only. When he looked at her again… That was a gaze that held hers.
Tapping the cigarette into a tray, she could think of no means to make this news lighter. “He works for Ryan. He will take more girls, and he will keep one dose of Lot 192 with him in the lab.”
“The city is rapidly deteriorating,” Elizabeth interrupted, heels clacking against stone as she moved between the two of them. “We need to act. I’ll apply to work with Suchong as an assistant.”
“No!” Jack flinched at his own volume, covering his mouth for a second to collect himself. “It’s not safe.”
“Nein, she will be perfectly safe,” Tenenbaum thought aloud. “Too old for being a Little Sister, sweet and so invisible to him because of it… And she is intelligent.”
“She’s ready to fight too,” Booker finally pitched in. He rubbed the back of his head as he continued. “Trust me, she can swing a wrench. So what do I do?”
Elizabeth sighed, weighing her words. “I need you to lay low here.”
Booker scoffed, then it sunk in that she meant it. “What, I just sit here while you put yourself in danger?”
Walking to him, her hand going to his shoulder instantly, Elizabeth took on a softer tone. “Tenenbaum said it was safe, and you said I can protect myself.” That moment, she whispered and Tenenbaum couldn’t make out the next words.
“And… And me?” Jack knew the answer when he asked. He wouldn’t look up and instead watched the girls playing.
“Who will keep Booker from going mad?” Tenenbaum offered and in a few seconds, Jack looked at them… And laughed.
“Yeah, you go ahead and laugh,” Booker snarked, coming to join them too and Tenenbaum could swear she saw the beginning of a smile.
“You could teach him guitar!” Elizabeth nudged Booker, and for a moment… It was a family.
December 31, 1958
Elizabeth returned to the Sanctuary, hanging her lab coat on a hook. There was an odd feeling, her coming home to a place where Booker… Her father… Waited for her because she was coming back. Always did.
She wore flats now, cut her hair to her jawline in a layered bob – very popular in Rapture so it was easy to blend in. And when she came up those stairs, the little girls were playing games without once mentioning angels. Tenenbaum watched them, smiling and smoking.
Better, Jack sat beside Booker, both with guitars. The music reached her first. Jack learned quickly and took a liking to the gentle folksy music Booker was so fond of.
“It’s a chance for them both,” Tenenbaum interrupted her thoughts and Elizabeth jumped. “Has your work with Suchong made you that scared?”
We are changing perspective!
What do you want to do, Elizabeth?
– – –
Suggestions from last chapter:
Events During the Time Skip:
During the time skip, Tenenbaum has been declared missing by Ryan Industries. Reed Wahl took over at Rapture Central Computing. Big Daddies have been commissioned by Andrew Ryan but are not active yet (except the Alpha series).
Sophia Lamb overthrew Sinclair at Persephone, so Atlas and his followers are imprisoned in Fontaine’s Department Store. Incinerate and Telekinesis Plasmids have been publicly released.
Girls have been disappearing from Rapture and civil unrest was growing. Elizabeth has not obtained Lot 192. The New Year party is tonight, keep that in mind. There will be big wigs at Rapture there but other areas of Rapture will be mostly unmanned.